Black Monday at Condé Nast

On heels of McKinsey study, publisher closes four titles, including Gourmet.

It’s cutdown day at Condé Nast.

After undergoing a three month study by McKinsey & Company of its publishing business, the luxury magazine company announced the closing of four titles on Monday.

Condé will cut Gourmet, Cookie, Modern Bride and Elegant Bride from its portfolio, a source at the publisher confirmed. The news was first reported by Media Decoder.

Sources inside Condé say McKinsey’s recommendations included across-the-board cost-cutting of 25 percent, and the shuttering of redundant titles.

“We have now completed an extensive review of our business,” CEO Chuck Townsend wrote in an e-mail to staffers. “The review has led us to a number of decisions designed to navigate the company through the economic downturn and to position us to take advantage of coming opportunities.

“Condé Nast’s success comes from the ability of our publications to attract readers with a wide range of interests, as well as advertisers who value them,” he continued. “But in this economic climate it is important to narrow our focus to titles with the greatest prospects for long-term growth.”

Of the four, the icing of Gourmet was the most shocking to insiders at the company. The 67-year-old magazine, edited by Ruth Reichl, had more brand equity than the upstart Bon Appetit, its other food title.

“Thank you all so much for this outpouring of support,” Reichl wrote on her Twitter feed. “It means a lot. Sorry not to be posting now, but I’m packing. We’re all stunned, sad.”

But insiders also knew at least some newer magazines could go.

Last year, Condé Nast killed Portfolio, its $100 million business magazine; Domino, its popular shelter title; and folded Men’s Vogue, its unsuccessful bid to spin a men’s fashion title out of the Vogue bible.

The mood inside Condé Nast’s 4 Times Square offices is, understandably, dire.

“It’s like Black Monday here,” one staffer said.

It’s been a black year for the publisher in general. Through June, Gourmet saw ad pages plummet 46.1 percent, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Ad pages for Elegant Bride fell 32.5 percent while Modern Bride’s slid 21.5 percent. Cookie’s ad pages fell 19.5 percent.

“These changes, combined with cost and workforce reductions now underway throughout the company, will speed the recovery of our current businesses and enable us to pursue new ventures,” Townsend added. “In the coming weeks, we hope to announce initiatives to develop digital versions of our brands that will make use of new devices and distribution channels.”

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